Alcoholic, junkie, druggie, dirty, addict
When people talk about addicts and drug addiction, these terms are almost always the first thing that springs to mind in conversation and debate. It is no surprise these terms are visceral and evoke powerful and symbolic associations. Addiction is a low-down and nasty place, so it is fitting that the labels attached to it carry so much weight.
These terms–while commonplace and “accepted”–is the biggest roadblock in trying to reduce and eliminate the stigma associated with drug and alcohol addiction. It doesn’t matter what advances have been made in how addiction is viewed and treated if the general public still marginalizes those who are affected by addiction.
In order to truly reduce the stigma attached to substance abuse and addiction, the way we talk about it needs to change.
It’s True: Words Can Hurt
The saying words can hurt may seem cliche, but it carries absolute truth. In the context of addiction, the words that can be thrown around can create a mindset in the addict they are a lost cause. In a recent article featured in The Huffington Post, U.S drug czar Michael Botticelli was quoting as saying the following:
“Research shows that the language we use to describe this disease can either perpetuate or overcome the stereotypes, prejudice and lack of empathy that keep people from getting treatment they need… Scientific evidence demonstrates that this disease is caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, not moral weakness on the part of the individual. Our language should reflect that.”
The way many addicts are characterized by these labels and they make no distinction between the disease and themselves. These labels further deny the dignity and humanity of the individual and make them feel as though addiction is permanent and there is no hope to break the cycle of abuse.
How Does the Conversation Need to Change?
In order for the perceptions of addiction to change, the ways in which we describe addiction need to focus on the addict as a human being. In the above mentioned Huffington Post article, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is developing a glossary of language and words that should be used in talking about addiction:
- Replacing addict with a person with a substance abuse disorder
- Replacing dirty with the phrase actively using
- Replacing former alcoholic/addict with person in long-term recovery
When reading these suggestions, it may seem silly, politically correct and a waste of time. Would changing words do anything to change how we view and talk about addiction? Given the current state of affairs regarding addiction in America, it would make sense that a different approach is needed in order to create meaningful dialogue and fruitful solutions to a significant health, legal and social issue.
While it is true there are millions of Americans that are addicted to drugs and alcohol, it is also true there are millions more that are in recovery from substance abuse. Recovery is not only possible, recovery is awesome and opens the door to limitless possibilities. There will always be those people who will always paint addicts in a negative light; those who seek to change the conversation regarding addiction need to speak louder.
A large part of changing the conversation regarding addiction and treatment is to arm yourself with knowledge. For comprehensive articles, blogs and other resources, Sober Nation is able to provide that important information you need to truly understand addiction and what options are available to help you or a loved one break the horrendous cycle of drug and alcohol abuse.